November 30, 2009
Check the clocks: After a long, lingering decline, the first official report of Charlie Weis' demise as Notre Dame's head coach arrived at 1:48 p.m. Eastern time today, courtesy of anonymous sources in the New York Post:
Charlie Weis is out as Notre Dame head football coach, a source close to the program told the Daily News.
AD Jack Swarbrick has decided to make a change after Weis finished the season with a 6-6 record and four straight losses to Navy, Pitt, Connecticut and Stanford.
The Worldwide Leader's Joe Schad reports that the news has been broken to ND's staff. At least it doesn't come as a surprise: After fielding what will probably go down as the worst team in school history in 2007, Weis goes out with back-to-back 6-6 finishes in the regular season, making him the first Irish coach since Joe Kuharich from 1959-63 to go three straight seasons without posting a winning record. Weis finished with only one win against a team that finished in the final polls (over Penn State, which snuck in at No. 24 in 2006) and lost 20 of his last 23 against teams that finished with winning records. After solid starts in each of the last two seasons, ND's combined record in the last two Novembers is 1-8, with a 1-4 slide that included losses to Pittsburgh, Boston College and Syracuse and a humiliating 38-3 debacle at USC in 2008 and an 0-4 finish punctuated by home losses to vastly outmanned underdogs Navy and UConn this year.
This was supposed to be Weis' season in the sun: With a veteran team comprised almost entirely of recruiting classes that ranked among the nation's elite for the first time in years at Notre Dame and a schedule that included only one team (USC) that finished in the final top 20 in 2008, there were no excuses for failing to at least contend for a BCS bowl and a solid national ranking. At Halloween, at 6-2 with only close losses to rivals Michigan and USC, they were on their way; a month later, riding a four-game skid through the end of the schedule, they're not guaranteed to accept any bowl bid -- which is, appropriately, right where Weis picked up from Tyrone Willingham five years ago.
Weis is survived by an exceptionally talented team -- at least on offense, his specialty, which consistently came through with big numbers in to-the-wire shootouts despite the relatively miserable record -- though it seems increasingly likely that quarterback Jimmy Clausen is bound for the NFL; the Daily News says Clausen was spotted "giving his football helmet to his family," which the paper takes as yet another sign the junior star is gone alongside his coach. Now begins the chaos and misdirection of the search for a successor to the highest profile gridiron job in America -- punctuated, of course, by the traditional white smoke emerging from Touchdown Jesus when the final choice is made. And then again when he declines and the elders move on to the next choice. And then again ...
[UPDATE, 3:13 p.m. ET] The Associated Press and New York Times both confirm Weis' ouster, with the Times adding that recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello will step in as the interim coach; players will vote on whether to attend a bowl game this afternoon. Weis' buyout is rumored to be as much as $18 million, so if he doesn't land the right NFL coordinator gig by next fall, you know, he's going to be alright.
[UPDATE, 4:36 p.m. ET] The local South Bend Tribune adds a statement from athletic director Jack Swarbrick: "We have great expectations for our football program, and we have not been able to meet those expectations." Meanwhile, some potential coaching targets are going to great pains to take themselves out of the running (good luck with that, Coach Stoops), while others are already getting bombarded by South Bend real estate agents bidding for their prospective services. It's a tough market up there.
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